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24 Daesh insurgents killed in Nangarhar

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(Last Updated On: March 13, 2016)

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At least 24 Daesh insurgents have reportedly been killed in a military operation in eastern Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.

The operation was launched in Achin district of the province and a number of villages to clear all insurgents.

“Most parts of Achin have been cleared of insurgents but the operation is ongoing,” an official statement said.

However, further details about the operation was not provided.

Daesh is active in five districts of the province, mostly in Achin.

In recent months, Afghan and foreign troops have increased air operations in the eastern parts of Afghanistan in which dozens of Daesh insurgents have been killed.

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Ghani signs decree ordering release of final batch of 400 Taliban prisoners

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday afternoon signed a decree to release the final 400 prisoners which will now pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) confirmed on Monday evening on Twitter that the decree had been signed at a ceremony attended by senior Afghan leaders.

Ghani said on Sunday, after the Loya Jirga’s resolution on the prisoner issue had been issued, that he would respect the decision of the Jirga and release the prisoners – some of whom have been accused of having masterminded some of the deadliest attacks in the country over the past 19 years.

In February, the US and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha which was a conditions-based deal in order to start negotiations.

One of the conditions on the Taliban’s part was that the Afghan government release 5,000 of its members.

Ghani duly did so but held back on the final batch of 400 who were seen as hardcore Taliban militants.

However, in the interests of working for peace, this weekend’s peace Jirga delegates, made up of over 3,200 tribal elders, community leaders and politicians, from around the country, decided the inmates should be freed.

The Taliban has said for weeks that once these prisoners are released they will agree to meet with the Afghan peace negotiating team.

Earlier Monday, government stated that talks would likely start on Sunday in Doha between the two peace negotiating teams. The Afghan government’s team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday.

Early Monday, the Taliban’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Reuters: “We are ready to sit for talks within a week from when we see our prisoners released. We are ready.”

It was not however clear on Monday night when the prisoners would in fact be freed.

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Afghan peace talks team expected to leave for Doha in two days

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

The Afghan government’s peace negotiations team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday for Doha, Qatar, for the start of intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.

Talks are expected to officially start on Sunday, Afghanistan’s national radio and television service RTA reported.

All members of the group that will travel to Doha, including members of the negotiating team and journalists, had COVID-19 tests done on Monday.

This was in line with international health measures to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Journalists were told they would travel with the team, which will be led by Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai.

Stanekzai and his team are expected to negotiate a comprehensive ceasefire in the first round of talks, a source who is part of the negotiations team told Ariana News adding that the first round of talks is expected to last 15 days.

However, Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban leader said Monday that more time was needed to overcome some challenges before talks could begin.

“The Taliban will enter the talks after the release of 400 prisoners, and it is not possible to hold the talks in the limited days; challenges are yet to be removed, and the real representatives of the nation must be included among the delegation, and the Taliban will announce a ceasefire process to build trust,” said Akbar Agha.

Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, a member of the negotiating team meanwhile stated: “The delegation has made all the preparations and we will sit with a specific agenda around the negotiating table with the Taliban; and the other side (the Taliban) should be ready as soon as possible to start the negotiations.”

This latest development comes just a day after the Loya Jirga, or grand council, approved the release of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners so as to kickstart peace talks.

Pledging to implement the Jirga’s decision, President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday he will sign the release order of the inmates.

On Monday morning, a source said Ghani would sign the decree later in the day in order to remove the final obstacle in the way of intra-Afghan negotiations.

This development comes after the February deal between the United States and the Taliban in Doha. This agreement called for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the withdrawal of US troops.

So far, there has been a drawdown of US troops, five American military bases have been handed over to the Afghan government and Ghani has released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners.

The last group of 400 prisoners had been a sticking point as the group had been deemed hardcore inmates responsible for some of the country’s worst attacks over the past 19 years.

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Ghani to sign prisoner release decree, peace talks expected in days

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Long-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are expected to start in Doha, Qatar within a week once the final 400 Taliban prisoners have been released. 

“We are ready to sit for talks within a week from when we see our prisoners released. We are ready,” Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told Reuters on Monday.

A government source told Reuters that President Ashraf Ghani would likely sign the decree to release the prisoners later on Monday.

“Everyone is waiting for Ghani to sign on the decree. The original plan is to travel to Doha on Wednesday and the talks will begin on Sunday,” the source said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC Pashto on Sunday, Shaheen said the Taliban negotiating team will be led by Abbas Stanikzai, the former chief negotiator for the Taliban during talks with the United States. 

Asked about a ceasefire, called for by the Loya Jirga on Sunday, Shaheen said: “The ceasefire is part of the intra-Afghan negotiations agenda that will be discussed there. It has been mentioned in the Doha agreement.”

Shaheen said the group wanted peace but criticized the delay in the prisoner release process by the Afghan government. 

He also stated that the group will continue to adhere to its commitments made during the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha earlier this year. 

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who cemented the agreement with the Taliban in February for the prisoner release campaign along with the withdrawal of US troops, on Monday also welcomed the Loya Jirga’s decision to release the remaining 400 prisoners. 

He also said that intra-Afghan talks would commence soon. 

In a series of posts on Twitter, Khalilzad said: “In the next few days, we expect the completion of prisoner releases, then travel of the Islamic Republic team to Doha, & from there the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations.”

“The parties will embark on a process to reach an agreement on a political roadmap & a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to end the Afghan war,” he tweeted.

The release of the 400 hardcore prisoners had been a stumbling block in the way of peace talks in the past month. President Ashraf Ghani has so far released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners in accordance with the Doha agreement but was wary of releasing the remaining group. 

However, this weekend’s Loya Jirga unanimously voted in favor of releasing the prisoners so that peace talks could start between the two parties. 

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